How I Gained A Greater Capacity For Trauma

“Over 4 days, 8 of us were put in a series of

catastrophic scenarios and then taught what to do”

 

November 18, 2016. London.

For the last month or two, my personal world had been feeling especially stress-filled. There had been a series of situations that I didn’t know how to handle. Conflicts in relationships with people I love. Things in the future that I’d been afraid of.

Coming into this week, I was overwhelmed. At my limit. I’d reached my maximum capacity. But this week, I accidentally discovered a way to decrease my feelings of anxiety and stress by exposing myself to MORE trauma – not less.

 

Here’s What Happened —

This week I attended a Hostile Environment & Emergency First Aid Training (HEFAT) presented by a UK security firm. Basically, it’s a week of training for journalists covering stories on the front lines of conflict zones.

My classmates were all older and more experienced than I was. The Times of London. Fast Company. Paparazzi. Ex-military. Many had already covered multiple assignments in areas around the world that we all have read about over the last 20 years.

We had each come to learn skills to handle the situations we pray we never actually encounter.

Over four days, eight of us were put in a series of catastrophic scenarios (war zones, traffic accidents, civil unrest, kidnapping) and then taught what to do.

We’d start with classroom training in an English country house that looked like it was pulled directly from The X-Men. Then we’d put on flak jackets and med-kits outside, and get ready to put our classroom learning into action. There was a walled compound on the property with buildings, vehicles, and gunfire/explosive charges.

Some of it was a fun challenge, like negotiating access to film a political event at a military checkpoint in a foreign country, or what to do if you discover you’re in a minefield.

But much of it was honestly just traumatic.

“I have been stretched over the last week.

Something in me is changing.”

 

Our instructors showed us the worst kinds of injuries imaginable, then taught us how to keep someone with those wounds alive (at least long enough to get them more suitable medical help) when we’re on assignment.

At the start of the week, I felt pretty small and inexperienced; I had accidentally moved out of my personal, inner-world stress and into a realm of real-world physical trauma.

The first time I ran into the compound with my kit for a medical scenario, I was so afraid of what I was going to find. In a real-world situation, my heart would have been racing as much as the victim’s! Blood and wounds are something I tend to run from, not towards.

But I have been stretched over the last week. Something in me is changing.

Now I am a tiny bit less afraid to run towards pain. Conflicts in relationships with people I love. Things in the future that I’m afraid of. Or even a person with a catastrophic bleed.

By exposing myself to trauma, I now have a “bigger bucket” for my fears and have created a greater ability to help others.

And while I might not be able to solve everything for someone in need, I’m better equipped to be there with them during it. I’ve learned that if my capacity is growing, I no longer need to pray for an easier life. Because instead, I am becoming a stronger person.

And best of all, in 3 years, my HEFAT certification expires… so I get to come back and relive this all over again. Super.

 

 

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